The following is a transcription of a typescript prepared by Andrew Potter about John Wilkes Booth's escape route, his survival, and eventual demise in Assam, India, in 1883. This document is a provided as continuation of the effort to present documents from the Neff-Guttridge Collection of interest not only to scholars but to the general public of the Lincoln assassination and related matters.
Potter makes the occasional spelling or punctuation error. The practice is to identify mistakes with a "[sic]" or to correct an error by adding letters or words between brackets, i.e., "[xyz]." I have generally ignored punctuation errors, as these do not appear to cloud meaning.
In the late 1870's, we made an effort to determine the route taken by Booth, Hynsen and Johnson after they crossed the ferry at Port Royal. We knew when and how they had gotten to the ferry but things had become confused after that. Conger and his party had followed three men in a cart from the ferry up the Fredericksburg road and had overtaken them some distance from the ferry. But they concluded that it was not the right people because the man thought to be Booth did not have a mustache and other man was not David Herold. Just how they had come to look for Herold is not known but such was the case. At that time they did not know that Booth had shaved off his moustache at Mudd's house so they were for a man with a moustache. It is a sad fact that we quite often got tangled up in our own guesses and I think this was of those times. In any event, Conger and company surmised that they were following the wrong bunch and they returned to the ferry and then started on south again.
Luth[er] and I followed the trail to Fredericksburg and were sure that it was Booth, Hynsen and Henry Johnson that was ahead of us. We stopped in Fredericksburg to give our horses feed and grain and us some sleep. When we found that it was not Booth that had been killed at Garrett's it was too late to go back and in fact, we were ordered not to do so. Booth was dead we were not to tamper with that story. At least not at that time.
But after the death of Baker someone decided to take a hand in discovering the truth. Much of the truth had leaked out and the questions were being asked which could lead to answers which the government and the bankers did not want known. Lew Wallace was at that time representing some New York bankers who were aware of the John B. Wilkes who was trying to get funds released and was threatening to make loud noises if he did not get his money. The money, along with the interest, amounted to a pretty sum and could cause a great wrinkle in certain banks. It then became essential that the exact truth be determined, not for release to the public but for the information of those in charge. We were sent out to investigate.
Strangely enough, the trail, instead of being cold, had warmed up considerably. People who had refused to tell when were made [our] first excursion in 1865, now remembered all about what had happened and were, in most cases, not reluctant to talk about it. The old days of suppression were gone. Some people were reluctant, those who had been directly involved. But even here, many were up in years of age and they thought, "what can they do to us now?" so they told it all or most. They set for hours and talk about the war. It seemed to make them feel good.
John Rixey of Culpep[p]er County told about the partisans in that area what had helped the Booth party get across into the valley. Mosby had moved his partisans into position to help with the capture plot and when Booth shot Lincoln they decided to help his get away. They picked up on the party near Fredericksburg and took them on their way. They took them on a path which led to Burr Hill and ten on the south side of Clark Mountain to Orange Court House. Booth needed a doctor and they got him one, a Quaker who would keep his own council, and he put a machet [sic] cast on Booth's leg. They then went on through Green County and crossed the mountain to the Hawksbill cave, which was also known as the Bear Hole Cave, where Booth and the party staid for three days and two nights. It was in this cave where Booth buried a lot of bank papers which he needed to lay claim to his bank accounts. These he retrieved in the early 70's when he and Liz Burnley came to the US then. John Rixey was one of the partisans who led the Booth party to the cave. The Linville group took over there and took the party to the home of Louis Pence near Bridfewater [sic]. Pence then took the on to Harper's Ferry.
We got hold of some of the letters which both Booth and Richard DeMill wrote in behalf of Booth, concerning the Bank deposits. Some of the letters to Magill in Owensboro, Kentucky and some were to Robert Watson in New Madrid. We visited Watson and took some pictures of the house, the boats, and the area. Watson by this time knew that we were no threat to him and he was less reluctant to talk with us. We took no formal statements but we later wrote down our recollections of the conversations. What he told us merely confirmed what we already knew.
John B. Wilkes died in Assam, India in 1883, on October 12th. We suspected that he may have comitted [sic] suicide to escape the pain but that is mere speculation. One thing we some say supports that idea is the date, October 12th. At least twice before it had been reported that he died on October 12th, each in an earlier year and a different place. That is the reason that Wallace and company had wanted the matter to be investigated thoroughly. He had assumed the identity of another and lived out his life in a haunted fashion but he did live. He was always tortured by illness and financial problems while he owned large of money in American where it was totally unavailable to him.
We retraced his route in our search and it must have been a terrible ordeal on him, his leg broken and inflamed and very painful. He finally let it heal at the home of his former wife at Harper's Ferry. He then proceeded to see another sweetheart in western Pennsylvania before he went on to New York, thence to California, and on to Ceylon. Whether he ever found any peace is doubtful. But that was consistent with the nature of the man.
[Initialed "A" in Potter's hand]
[Undated; ca. 1931]